S&L woes threaten Oxford Mews project, city's loan

March 03, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Oxford Mews, a 192-unit affordable-housing project off Bywater Road in Annapolis, may have fallen victim to the savings and loan crisis, and its demise could cost the city government $156,000.

Robert Gaines, an Annapolis developer, had been negotiating to buy the 18 acres from Second National Federal Savings Bank, but federal regulators seized the thrift and its assets in December 1992, before the sale could be completed.

Now, Resolution Trust Corp., which manages the thrift's properties, wants to sell the land. Mr. Gaines told the City Council Finance Committee on Monday that he would try to buy it and continue with his plans.

But if he can't, he won't be able to repay the city the money it lent him for another affordable-housing project.

The city had made that loan to help complete a low-cost townhouse project called Greenbriar, which was built by South County Residential Partnership, an arm of the Community Action Agency.

Dallas Evans, then the head of the Community Action Agency, and Mr. Gaines, who was the project manager, promised to repay the city from the profits generated by the Oxford Mews.

Mr. Gaines said he has been trying to negotiate with the Resolution Trust Corp. to buy the property and proceed with the project, but so far they have been unable to reach agreement.

The property will probably go to auction in 60 to 90 days, he said.

Mr. Gaines and Mr. Evans, chairman of the Foundation for the Preservation of Affordable Housing, planned to buy the land for $1.9 million and begin construction last summer. They envisioned 16 single-family homes, 48 garden-style condominiums and 138 townhouses built around a 3-acre park.

So far, the city has paid $140,000 of the $156,000 it promised to help the Greenbriar development. This week, Mr. Gaines asked the council's Finance Committee for $5,000 to complete work there.

Committee members seemed willing to give him the money, despite the risk that it might not be repaid.

"I'm willing to say we took a $156,000 loss on this project. That's not bad. We got 35 families living in affordable housing," said Alderman Carl Snowden, a Democrat in Ward 5.

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